Sometimes I struggle with entitlement. I think my neighbor, life or the Lord owes me something. What I think I deserve may include a problem-free day, technology that always works, a body that never gets sick or tired, coworkers who serve me, friends who appreciate me, a faster moving check-out line at the grocery store, ministry that is just easy, a bowl of ice cream, a day off…I have to confess that the list of what I desire, and at times conclude that I deserve, is really rather endless and always self-focused. As I interact and minister to others, I see entitlement isn’t just my problem.
Actually, it is incredibly easier to see entitlement as a problem for others and not for ourselves, because we humans are so gifted at excusing why we truly “deserve” what it is we’re demanding! When you read chapter four in the book of Jonah, you can’t take Jonah and his sense of entitlement seriously. This man is a prophet and so should be rejoicing in God’s salvation, not feeling that he deserves to see God’s judgement on the city of Nineveh. When Jonah feels so entitled to shade from the sun that he becomes selfishly angry when his shade plant dies, it is easy to recognize his proud entitlement and his ridiculous foolishness (Jonah 4:9).
Unfortunately, like Jonah, I am especially tempted towards self-pity when I allow myself to feel entitled in ministry. By the grace of God and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, I desire to joyfully serve the Lord for the Lord’s sake, for He is completely worthy. Yet my sinful flesh easily tempts me towards expecting recognition or fulfillment of some sort in the here and now. I want to be valued, honored, or admired for my ministry. I want those I’m serving to express thankfulness, or at least realize that I’m seeking to serve them and not respond in ways that makes my ministry only harder. I want to see in the short-term that my sacrifices mean something and my ministry is making a difference. I expect to see fruit from my service quickly and in abundance. In my pride, I expect human accolades and immediate gratification, and when I don’t receive what I’m idolizing, I pout. I look too much like Jonah and not enough like Christ.
A passage in Luke confronts my pride and any feelings of entitlement that come along with it. Jesus is speaking with his disciples when He shares this with them in Luke 17:7-10:
7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at the table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
Jesus reminds me I am His servant, and my role is to serve and to keep serving, with no expectation for a standing ovation. I have the privilege and honor of serving Him, my Savior and King. Though He is highly exalted, He came not to be served, but to serve, and as His humble follower, my life should be one of sacrificial service as well. I am not entitled to pampering after I serve, as Jesus states in verse 7. I am not deserving of others singing my praises, as He reminds us in verse 9. Rather, I am to serve and minister and joyfully serve some more, even when tired, because I am His. I am an unworthy, undeserving servant and my duty is to do nothing less than to live out a life of service for my Lord. I am not entitled to praise or a break, no matter how spiritual my service may be. Rather, I am to humbly serve my King in all areas of my life; that is my duty as His redeemed creation, and it truly leads to joy (Philippians 2:17)
Jesus tells another parable that encourages me, in my service, to look to eternity. In Luke 12:37-38 he says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!”
The Lord sees my service that is done for His sake out of my love and devotion to Him. He promises that one day there will be rest and reward for me. As I faithfully serve my King now, I have eternal blessings to anticipate, blessings far greater than the things I feel entitled to right now. I am only an unworthy servant, and my Master is worthy of all I give for Him. Yet He is an exceedingly gracious God, abounding in goodness and mercy, and He is planning a glorious eternity for me to know the joy of being with Him. I don’t need to clamor for what I feel entitled to. I can repent of my worshiping of ease, comfort and all my other desires over treasuring the Lord. I am called to embrace the life of an unworthy servant, selflessly and untiringly pouring myself out for the Lord. And I have the hope of looking forward to the rest and the blessing of an eternity with my Master when He returns.